Campaigners fighting to save the Red Lion pub in Bloxham have been given an unexpected reprieve after the sale of the property fell through.
Members of the Red Lion Hub steering committee will meet this weekend to discuss whether they are prepared to accept an indicative price of £300,000 for the 250-year-old public house, a purchase which could see villagers once more digging into their own pockets.
It is understood current owners Fuller’s brewery have been in talks to sell the derelict pub onto a mystery restaurateur for around £400,000, but members of the steering group were informed last month the deal had been shelved.
Colin Challenger, Bloxham resident and chairman of the steering group, said he is now confident the pub will be in the hands of the community.
“I think we are going to buy it,” he said. “The only question is when.
“We want to buy the place but it has to be the right price.”
For Mr Challenger, Fuller’s indicative price of £300,000 is unacceptable as an independent valuation carried out in 2014 on behalf of the Red Lion Hub valued the property at £275,000. He believes the value would have gone down further as the property has deteriorated through lack of use. Renovation costs could also be large.
“They also won’t sell the freehold to the property,” Mr Challenger added. “They will want overage. This means if the place is significantly developed Fuller’s get a percentage of the site value if it is developed or made bigger.
“I think they are being totally unreasonable. The mistake I think they have made is that they think it [The Red Lion Hub] is a community project and they think we are a soft touch.”
Steering group committee member Phil Slater added: “The dilemma we face is that the more we wait the more the place deteriorates. The temptation is there to pay more than we like to secure the place as quickly as possible.”
Bloxham villagers have repeatedly attempted to secure the Red Lion, for use by the community since its closure in 2013. They formed the Red Lion Hub to raise funds to buy the property.
But the steering group committee had earlier shelved negotiations after the threat of legal charges looked set to prevent them from securing loans to fund refurbishment work.
This charge was later shelved by the brewery and negotiations began once more, until the price for the property was raised from £300,000 to £400,000.
Previous inspections have shown the pub has suffered badly from rot, damp and damage caused 18 months of being boarded up with no heating or ventilation.
The building is currently listed with Cherwell District Council as an asset of community value, which guarantees the community’s right to bid to purchase the property.
Fuller’s have confirmed the Red Lion is back on the market but declined to comment further.